Yes, the Tide is Turning Against Psychiatry


The suggestion embedded in this article’s title seems counter-intuitive. How could the tide be turning on psychiatry when the institution has never been so strong? And indeed indicators of its growing strength and tenacity are all around us. The exporting of its model to the global south via the World Bank, the emergence of outpatient committal, the explosion of funding for psychiatric research (see Burstow, 2015). Correspondingly, daily are there calls for most aggressive “detection” and “treatment”  (e.g., Jeffrey Lieberman, 2015). And the mainstream press has never been more closed to truly foundational critiques. That acknowledged, let me suggest that such intensification is common when an old system is in the early days of crumbling.

Of course, intensification itself is hardly an indicator that a reversal is at hand. So how would we know? Examples of possible indicators are: Ever growing critiques from inside and outside the profession, growing discomfort with “anomalies” (in essence, the indicators of a paradigm shift spelt out by Kuhn, 1962). Established moral authorities making unprecedented negative pronouncements about the current state of affairs. The surfacing of more and more tales of corruption and fraud. The rising up of those subjected to it. Each of these signs and more we are experiencing now with psychiatry — hardly conclusive individually, but taken together, convincing portents of a societal shift.

While psychiatric anomalies have always been with us, note, never have they been so visible. Even as we hear calls for the early detention and treatment of “mental illness” to prevent school shootings, for instance, we discover that the majority of the shooters were on psychiatric drugs. Correspondingly, as the system pushes western ways of handling “schizophrenia” on the rest of the world, World Health Organization studies conclude that the countries with the highest rates of “recovery” are those without the “benefit” of  modern “treatment” (see Robert Whitaker, 2010). As for the dissatisfaction experienced by people in the psychiatric and related professions, just check out the speakers at the 2015 conference of the International Society for Ethical Psychiatry and Psychology, and you will quickly get a sense of it. Telling likewise is what happened in the years leading up to the release of DSM-5. While their goal, of course, was not “changing” but rather “saving” the current paradigm, well in advance of DSM-5’s release, in what was a historically unprecedented move, the two previous taskforce chairs, Robert Spitzer (2009) and Allen Frances (2009), each came out with hard-hitting critiques of what their colleagues were doing, describing it as once bad science and an exercise in subterfuge—critiques echoed, I’d add, to an unparalleled degree by mainstream media. At the same time, a plethora of radical survivor groups have sprung up. And sites dedicated to deconstructing psychiatry are legion (e.g. and

By the same token, proofs of fraudulent trials and fraudulent claims of discoveries abound. Witness David Healey’s (2009) unearthing of the systematic “cooking” of drug trials. Witness the exposés on the Breggin site. And note the publishing this year of a book which clearly establishes that the American Psychiatric Association has intentionally misled the public throughout its history — about “mental illness” being a proven brain disease, for example, about the efficacy of the drugs (Whitaker and Cosgrove, 2015).

Even as these developments unfold, major international organizations have cast doubt on psychiatry both morally and scientifically. Take the aforementioned World Health Organization’s studies. And what is particularly suggestive, in its role as moral compass, two different instruments of the United Nations have declared involuntary neurolepticization a form of torture. Moreover, trace the practical implications of the recently minted Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and it becomes clear that it positions a key modus operandi of psychiatry everywhere — involuntary treatment — as a human rights violation (a victory, I might add, for which the vintage work of groups like the Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry must largely be credited; for details, see Minkowitz, 2014). All of which, note, paves the way for the current survivor-led campaign to rescind involuntary committal laws throughout North America.

Another salient indicator comes from non-psychiatric medical practitioners and students, for quiet though they remain about it, cogent evidence suggests that their opinion of psychiatry has plummeted. A major study written up by H. Stuart et al. (2015) involving 1057 non-psychiatric medical teaching faculty in 15 countries, for example, shows that the vast majority hold a highly negative view of psychiatry. They find psychiatrists, for instance, too powerful, “unscientific,” and “illogical.” Correspondingly, there is currently a formidable decline in the percentage of medical residents open to specializing in psychiatry. In the UK, for example (once a psychiatric hotbed), less than 5% of medical students choose to enter psychiatry (see Read, 2015).

Indeed, psychiatrists are aware of their faltering reputation. And in what is an unprecedented move, in January of this year a major psychiatric journal (Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica) devoted a special issue to psychiatry’s “image problem” (Vol. 131), with leading figures in psychiatry weighing in — e.g., current and former presidents of the European Psychiatric Association and the current president of the World Psychiatric Association. What the very existence of this special issue seems to suggest is that so bad is the public image that the upper echelons of the industry are taking alarm. Correspondingly, their response is how regimes of ruling commonly respond when their seemingly unquestionable authority begins to slip away — for example, portraying themselves as victims and blaming everyone else. Bhugra (2015), current president of the World Psychiatric Association, for instance, lays the blame on the “anti-psychiatry media” — ironic, given the enormity of the media’s support.

That noted, if the tide is turning — and, as shown, it is — the question is how far? And what form will the change take? At the moment, despite critiques which demonstrate psychiatry’s utter invalidity, the primary discourse is reformist. This news is worse than it appears, for throughout the centuries, in the long run, reform agendas have only served psychiatry. Temporarily, for sure, they create a modicum of improvement, like with “moral management.” Nonetheless, as shown by Burstow (2014), each and every tempering of psychiatry under a reform agenda has culminated in the return of biological psychiatry with a vengeance. As such, despite good intentions—and I am in no way doubting the intentions and hard work of most of the people involved — all “reformism” ultimately succeeds in doing is losing the momentum.

That said, at this point, many movement people are keenly aware of this dynamic. Correspondingly, we are seeing a renewed interest in psychiatry abolition, especially versions committed to societal rebuilding. The reception which I have been receiving among psychiatric survivors – and survivors, after all, is where the resurgence of subjugated knowledge must come from — is suggestive in this regard.

Significantly, up until a few years ago, there was but muted interest in psychiatry abolition within survivor circles. What I am seeing now, conversely, is an abundance of posts of the ilk “If antipsychiatry is what Bonnie says it as, then I am antipsychiatry.” Additionally, more and more antipsychiatry websites are popping up. The point is, antipsychiatry — and not just any type but one of a visionary nature — is markedly on the rise.

And indeed, a visionary antipsychiatry is precisely psychiatry’s worst nightmare—hence the current barring of foundational critiques by the mainstream media and hence psychiatry’s worried references to “antipsychiatry.” Simple reform, as history shows, is inevitably coopted. And critique alone can easily be dismissed. A true revolution — one involving reclamation — is a whole different matter.

In ending, let me invite those in the Toronto area interested in continuing this conversation to come to my book launch on September 18 (5:30, Floor 12, 252 Bloor West). And more generally, let me ask all readers: Is a coercive, invalid, and damaging “system” really the best we can do? What makes setting our sights on but tempering it and/or but adding “alternatives” the “practical” option?

And now that the tide is turning, what can the average citizen do so that this time round, we as a society do not “squander” the moment?

* * * * *

For this and related articles, see


Bhugra, D. (2015). To be or not to be a psychiatrist? Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 4-5.

Burstow, B. (2014). Liberal “mental health” reform: A fail-proof way to fail. Mad In America. November 17 (

Burstow, B. (2015). Psychiatry and the business of madness. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Frances, Allen (2009). A warning sign on the road to DSM-V. Psychiatric Times. June 26 (

Healey, D. (2009). Psychiatric drugs explained. London: Elsevier.

Kuhn, Thomas (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lieberman, J. (2015). How to halt the violence. The New York Times. August 28  (

Minkowitz, T. (2014). Convention on the rights of people with disabilities and liberation from psychiatric oppression. In Bonnie Burstow, Brenda LeFrançois, and Shaindl Diamond (Eds.). Psychiatry disrupted (pp. 129-144). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Read, J. (2015). Saving psychiatry from itself. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 11-12.

Spitzer, R. (2009). DSM transparency: Fact or rhetoric. Psychiatric Times. March 6 (

Stewart, H. et al. (2015). Images of psychiatry and psychiatrists. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 131, 21-28.

Whitaker, R. (2010). Anatomy of an epidemic. New York: Broadway Paperbacks.

Whitaker, R. and Cosgrove L. (2015). Psychiatry under the influence. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


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      • Forgive the report!

        I’ve been fighting the MHS since 2010.

        In my observations a pattern of authority seems present in these societal ills that mainstream Americans have difficulty looking at due to the issues explosive potential on personal image and personal safety.

        1. Racism is undoubtedly a behavior deserving of a diagosis and/or treatment. The push back alone is criminal.
        2. Child abuse another despicable practice consistently hidden from view. Children have no rights in the midst of forced drugging.
        Accused of unreliable memories and adverse experiences squelched by authorities.
        Children are always at risk of being abused.
        3. Mental health stigma is the most insidious form of abuse. Especially when practiced by MHS workers and professionals alike.
        I’ve been the victim of numerous abuses at the hands of every part of the MHS.
        4. Ageism is another assault on the poor and aged.
        Healthcare limitations and poor support systems contribute to the rapid decline of our elderly compared to other nations.

        The problems are enormous and enormously complicated.
        Especially when the powers that be are always in denial because of denial’s advantage to confuse.

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  1. Dr. Burstow
    First off not trying to be mean but we always take issues with academics out selling books. No do not believe Psychiatry is sinking because of changing attitudes as much as it is becoming more and more out of reach for a lot of people because of outrages cost for treatment. This alone is causing a lot of animosity among those needing mental health care and treatment so many people with mental health issues are just giving many sectors of the field two big double middle fingers.
    We do not disagree that drug therapy use is out of control for the profession but hey it’s quick buck for some in the field that spend three minutes with a patient and write a script for medication, many times which is as much a problem as the mental illness, and charge outrages sums in doing so.
    We believe that what many are missing on Mad in America is that they are helping interest, political, social, business, health insurance industry that want to claim mental illness is not real at all, in any shape or form, and believe people claiming any mental illness are just freeloaders, lazy and weak minded. These interest cherry pick what many like you post here Dr. Burstow to support cuts for care, funding for those in desperate need of mental health care.
    In closing nothing wrong with wanting to improve the care and treatment of the mentally ill by the mental health industry, society or governments but please be careful in not helping to cut our throats, the mental ill, as you do it who are struggling day in and day out to gain care and treatment for our mental illness in our communities around the world.

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    • First of all, I don’t believe that Bonnie is posting here trying to sell her book. I do not mind that she makes reference to her book signing since she’s using that as a means of making contacts with people who have the same interests as she does in getting rid of a very corrupt system filled with a great many people who don’t seem much better than flim flam artists and peddlers of snake oil.

      Secondly, I don’t believe in the concept of “mental illness” as defined by the unholy alliance of psychiatry and the drug companies. Most of us have had way too much of this system’s toxic “treatment” meted out in the form of the neuroleptics. I don’t think there’s a lack of “treatment” at all, as you seem to be talking about it.

      What I do see is a great lack of any awareness on the part of the so-called “doctors” of the damaging effects of trauma and injustice that pervades our society. They never ask “what happened to us” but always want to know about “what’s wrong with us.” They do not fight for better housing, better diets and access to good food, nor do they show much concern or care for those they are supposedly “treating.”

      They do seem to show a great deal of concern for their wallets and bank accounts and houses in gated communities and private schools for their kids and the big SUV’s that they drive around town. I don’t think there’s any “lack of treatment” at all since almost every state in this country has laws that force people into treatment against their wills. I think there’s more than enough “treatment” to go around for everyone.

      What is out of reach is good psychiatrists who actually sit down and listen to what their “patients” have to share with them, treating these people as the true experts on their own lives. Good psychiatrists can’t work like this because insurance companies won’t pay for this kind of “treatment”. I work in a state hospital where almost no talk therapy goes on at all but everyone is given nice big cocktails of neuroleptics so that they become quiet and docile zombies. Thanks but no thanks, I can do without that kind of “treatment”.

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      • Thanks, Stephen, for taking me in. Yes, for me it is about using all the tools at hand (including helpful books–and that is surely why so many of us write) to fight against a highly oppressive and damaging system. We need our authors read (no, we don’t need their books bought–that’s what libraries are for); we need to mobilize; we need to spread the conversation so that we can create a big enough movement that we are able to effect change.

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    • Hi, there, ManintheMoon I m not sure what to say to your beliefs because my sense is that you do not know me; nor have you read many of my writings for I have never supported cuts for real care. The point is that I do not consider the “mental health system” real care. That said, re your point about the book, I do not know if this makes you feel better or not, but I honestly have no great interest in whether or not people “buy” my book for I am not a book capitalist. What I do think is that there is a very important critique built up in the book that is useful–a different matter altogether. That said, I understand we have a very different position on the mental health system.

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      • Yes ma’am we do know who you are and have read some of your positions on mental health. We are on neither side on this issue .We feel both sides suck on how they would deal or deal with mental illness. Having our self been institutionalized for up to a nearly a year at times we have experienced the mental Health industry and it’s many levels of care and treatment. Yes We believe all the enlightened ones on both side of the issues are still in the dark and dark ages to how to care and to the treatment of those with mental illness. We are lucky in that we have found a therapist that doesn’t push medication as the only solution and believes medication is the last opinion, listen to us as a human being, allows us to help and have a say in our treatment plan, care, treatment goals and heavily pushes for family participation in all aspects of planning, treatment and care of the mentally ill patient. Our family set in on most therapy session. Never had that happen before! Also we are low income and our therapist boss set up a special program for the mental ill like us so we could have care and does not get support from any one but themselves for this program. So yes we are pretty well versed on Mental Health and the Mental Health industry. One last thing for those claiming a mental health facility is as bad as jail or prison for a person with mental illness we can tell you we would take a mental health facility any day.

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      • Bonnie, I have had a front row seat in the Community Mental Healthcare field, as the patient, not a therapist or doctor for over 35 years, and I have never seen so much needless suffering in my life, myself included, from years of taking psychiatric drugs. No one knows, or listens, at how much we suffer at the hands of our psychiatrists. We spend entire lives battling the side effects, adverse reactions, and my god, the hellacious withdrawals that many don’t live through (my ‘cold turkey’ klonopin withdrawal almost killed me, from taking our so called ‘medicine’. I will be happy to read your book as soon as my disability check allows for such extravagant expenditures. Since withdrawing from all psychiatric drugs there is no mental illness lurking there. I am no differant from anyone else except that I gave up my entire life while doctors where busy trying to ‘fix’ this fictitious ‘chemical imbalance’ and I had to suffer in it’s wake.

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    • Some people say that the concerns over spending led to closing down asylums just as much if not more than the outrage over their abuses. If current neoliberal madness is going to end psychiatry then it would be one good thing that it’s brought about.
      What is the point of spending money on the system which only harms people if you could help them for a fraction of that cost? The real problem here is those very neoliberals who want to cut all and any social programs are only too happy to fund drugs because that helps their corporate friends. So you get none of the real help and all the psychiatry’s bs.

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    • When you say “We”, who are you referring to ? It’s ok to speak for yourself.

      it is becoming more and more out of reach for a lot of people because of outrages cost for treatment.

      I honestly believe beyond treating someone for acute trauma there isn’t really a whole lot going on with psychiatry, with most of the drugs prescribed. In my experience anyway. Every single drug prescribed by a psychiatrist is damaging to a person’s health in some way, not beneficial. Therefore it is smart to avoid them if you can. It’s really that simple.

      that want to claim mental illness is not real at all, in any shape or form

      Well as far as I’m aware there still isn’t any definitive proof that there are permanent discrete diseases. I think that people do have problems coping, I do sometimes myself but I also believe that there’s more to human health than what is projected by western medicine. Things change every day as to what is supposed to be good for us or not. There are people taking all kinds of medication they probably don’t have to if they changed their diet etc etc.

      These interest cherry pick what many like you post here Dr. Burstow to support cuts for care

      please be careful in not helping to cut our throats, the mental ill, as you do it who are struggling day in and day out to gain care and treatment for our mental illness in our communities around the world.

      Kinda looks like you’re the one that might be cherry picking but yeah I do believe that if treatment is ultimately useless that it’s pointless to fund it. If it’s keeping some Ph.D in a job I don’t care about that.

      Really it depends what we’re talking about. Are we talking about “early intervention” or a homeless “schizophrenic” talking to himself as he walks down the CBD ?

      With the early intervention, I think we should have education given teaching kids basic skills on how to deal with anxiety/fear/stress but I don’t believe they should have negative labels slapped on them and be given a tray full of poison.

      For other stuff, I wonder what the point is in just lobbing antipsychotics at someone, maybe it will calm someone down but does that treat what might be an underlying problem ? Bad diet, deficiency ?

      Anyway, i’ve rambled enough.

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      • Just to add on the intervention thing. See what we have here in Australia where they bring up cyber bullying.

        The media always focuses on the bullies rather they brining up the idea that maybe it would be a good idea to educate kids on the dangers of getting sucked into social media and to learn to shake it off instead of letting a few lines of text be a reason to end their life.

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        • barrab
          When we say we we speak for our system, Dissociative identity Disorder and it was not created by any one in the mental health field but sever torture, abuse, neglect and gang rape as a child. Yep sure way to guaranty to screw up one for life. An no one, none have the answers for this disorder and at best very poor insight with any experts on either side. Yep DID there is, nothing cool, glamorous or neat about it.. It’s sucks day in and day out and sorry no matter how smart one thinks they are you can’t think your way out of it. So give us a broken if we make the choice to question both side hard in their support to how they believe the mentally ill should be treated, How about just a little compassion what a concept! Then again this side seems to be as tone deaf as the others side on the issue and wish to speak in absolutes and they know what is best for the mentally ill. Not even!

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          • Dr. Burstoe
            No apologizes needed but thanks for your kindness.We are one of the lucky one .We have a long time partner who takes care if us,helps with understand and love. We are lucky we have found a therapist that does not focus on their bottom line and truly cares about us in trying to guide us to a better life. We have been through the mental health system from those who saw us as a dollar sign to those who did nothing more than drug us and lock us away. Yes we surely are one of the lucky one in that we are allow to no longer hide the system and are encourage to stop keeping the secrets which does as great a harm as the original trauma in the long haul. Our partner and therapist support in letting all the fragments within our system to just to be.. Our partner takes the littles out into the world and have no shame in them being kids in public with their dolls, toys, blanky or binky if it is what make them feel safe it’s just fine. Our females are allowed to be little girls and have the closeness of another female with our partners. We have found a way to have a level of healing that is no standard for the mental health industry for those with DID and is fully supported by our therapist. Yes Ma’am we are one of the lucky ones.

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          • ManInTheMoon,

            I will say I do know some people who think antidepressants help them, whether this is the placebo effects, or that the antidepressants help some and harm others, I’m not certain. I also know a “bipolar” lady, who has been through the ringer, but now says she is on a very low dose of an antidepressant and a child’s dose of an antipsychotic, and she is doing well. So some here are able to recognize that actually many people, if only due to a placebo effect, believe the drugs at low, and with minimal poly pharmacy, help.

            I am, however, personally against forcing or coercing anyone to take any drug. I believe that should be illegal. And I believe the psycho / pharmacutical industries mass marketing of the “chemical imbalance theory” onto the entire US public as truth, and claiming their DSM theoretical “mental illnesses” are “real,” when none of them have any scientific validity and all may be completely iatrogenic, are two unforgivable (especially without proper repentance and compensation to those they’ve harmed) lies the psychiatric industry has commited against the entire nation, and world, at this point. And it is all of humanity paying for this multimillion or billion dollar fraud now.

            And you should know that 2/3’s of all so called “schizophrenics” today are child abuse, or adverse childhood experience (ACEs), survivors who likely had their real life concerns dismissed by psychiatrists, then had the negative symptoms of “schizophrenia” created with the neuroleptic drugs.

            The neuroleptic / antipsychotic drugs create the negative symptoms of “schizophrenia” via something known as neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome. And this is often misdiagnosed by psychiatrists, so they increase the drugs, rather than taking the person off them. Especially when the person is discussing something the psychiatrist doesn’t want to actually deal with, like the reality that we have a serious child abuse problem in this country, and world. Nonetheless, by increasing the neuroleptic dose, or adding more psychiatric drugs, due to this bad reaction to the neuroleptics, rather than acknowledging that many people react badly to the neuroleptics, the psychiatrists then create the positive symptoms of “schizophrenia,” including psychosis, via something known as anticholinergic toxidrome.

            And my experience, as a person who was merely dealing with psychiatrists covering up the abuse of my child in this manner for some wealthy people and a pastor, was that while I was suffering the anticholinergic toxidrome induced psychosis, I had the “voices” of the people who had raped and covered up the abuse of my child in my head bragging about it. And my research has found (see John Read’s research, I think) this is a common adverse effect of the neuroleptics, when child abuse victims are wrongly put on this class of drug. I was thankfully eventually handed over the medical evidence of the child abuse by some decent and disgusted nurses, and of the psychiatric gaslighting of me, thus I was able to escape the appalling child molestation covering up psychiatric system. But our current legal system is so corrupted at this point in time, by the psychiatric system delusion and lies to all of humanity, my family was denied justice.

            I’m so sorry for what happened to you. I don’t know what drug classes you’ve been put on. But, my experience is inappropriately putting child abuse victims / concerned parents on the neuroleptics results in abusive psychotomimetic “voices.” My theory, after my drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity manic “psychosis” / awakening to my dreams and ten years of research is that Jung’s theory there is a “collective unconscience,” we are all connected, and most within humanity would find this psychiatric behavior appalling and unacceptable, is likely more valid than any of today’s bio-bio-bio psychiatric theories of the DSM so called “mental illnesses.”

            And it was confessed to me, by a subsequent ethical pastor, that I’d dealt with the “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” And, Bonnie’s book does point out that the psychiatric industry did essentially replace the paternalistic “witch hunters” of old. No doubt, it’s time we rid humanity of the paternalistic psychiatric and psychological industries’ profiting off of covering up child abuse, by blaming, defaming, tranquilizing, discrediting, and turning the victims of child abuse into schizophrenics with the neuroleptics. Again, I’m so sorry for what happened to you, and hope this may help you in your healing journey.

            Bonnie, I loved your book. Thank you for writing it.

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    • Man in the Moon you need to do some serious study of the issues at hand and learn why it is literally impossible for such as thing as “mental illness” to exist.

      We want Bonnie to sell her books btw, and to advertise them as she sees fit, including/especially via MIA.

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    • To ManintheMoon 9/3/2015 12:28 pm

      Dude, give it a rest!! You may not be “trying” to be mean, but you *are* being mean, and you know it. Dr. Burstow is on our side. Psychiatric clinicians who fight for Mad rights are as rare as they are precious and gifted. The power to abolish psychiatry as it exists today rests with those people like Dr. Burstow who can earn a dollar by making mental health care safe, humane, and healing. If pro-choice psychiatry is profitable, pro-force psychiatry will meet its long-awaited destruction.

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    • I’ve not seen you post here before. I’m glad that you’re here. I still don’t want anything to do with the system but I also believe that I understand what you’re getting at, at least a little bit. I’m glad that you’re here and believe that your input is valuable. I appreciate your speaking out. I’m also glad that you have someone who loves you and a good therapist who treats you with respect and dignity. I wish that I’s had the same when I had my encounter with the system.

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  2. You can see the turning of the tide by going to any of the online mental health forums and reading threads from 10 years ago and comparing them to what is being written in the current threads.

    Its subtle but its absolutely there. Threads from a decade ago were mostly centered on this and that drug find the ‘right’ pills and parroting of medical model mythology chemical imbalance broken brains ect.

    Threads today are more just about life and dealing with it.

    In the offline world I get a sense that more people know psychiatry is full of it and it seems it is no longer so glamorous to be going to a psychiatrist. The fictional character Tony Soprano with his Prozac and others made it ‘cool’ and hip for a wile but that seems to be changing.

    Now people it seems are associating mental health with people who make the TV news in a negative way.

    Tides turning I agree.

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  3. Bonnie, thanks so much for your many contributions to this cause. And I certainly agree that there has developed a kind of “infrastructure” (for lack of a better word), which includes books and critiques like yours, and including Mad In America as well.. All this supplies arguments and information for those on the front lines directly confronting psychiatry.

    But what I don’t see is a mass movement, which to me is totally necessary to fight institutions like psychiatry that are gross violators of human rights.

    Particularly, as someone who has been in the “psych survivor” movement for decades, I see no growth, but rather what seems to be a determination to self-destruct. People are trashed right and left. People who actually try to lead specific and meaningful actions against psychiatry are especially attacked. I have never seen anything like this in any political work I have ever done, which goes back a long way.

    Although there are literally tens of millions of people in the United States who have spent time as inmates of psych wards and did not like their experience, it is impossible to recruit such people into the hostile swamp our movement has become.

    I don’t know how to change this. But it has to change, because without a mass movement, the forces that will be necessary to end psychiatric oppression just aren’t there.

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    • Ted, I totally agree with you of course about the lack of a mass movement. That’s what we need, and it is hard to know how to get it. I also agree that it is important to stop the trashing. At the same time, I don’t see this as at all unique to the survivor movement. I remember how very much trashing there was in the women’s movement(s) in the 1980s.

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        • Actually, Ted, there was a terrible fear that set in in the women’s movement. And a high percentage of the women who left because of the endless attacks never came back. It was as if everyone’s oppression was a weapon that they wielded against each other. Why did feminism survive? Not, I think, because we found a way to deal with this but because it was already a huge mass movement before this began. None of which answers your question of how to deal with the hostilities within the survivor movement today. Perhaps having a number of conferences precisely focused on moving beyond the attacks would help.

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          • Bonnie, I have thought of precisely that, gathering together only those people who see the need for solidarity and having meetings/conferences with them, and I think it would be a good thing. But I feel too burned out to do it.

            Yet I know it has to be done, just not by me.

            What I have noticed, though, is that locally, here in the Bay Area, there is very little of this trashing. Even though I have some serious political disagreements with people here, we treat each other with respect. I think a lot of that is because we all really know each other. We are not just words on a screen, electronic messages sent from thousands of miles away.

            When I organized the May 16 anti-shock demo here in Berkeley, I was almost surprised that it was relatively easy to organize. That was, I think, because few people here trash one another because of political differences.

            I think we should be doing more local organizing anyway. Our movement really doesn’t have the resources any more to do large projects. Pretending that we do just leads to a lot of posing, where people announce that “I’m a leader,” and try to show that by attacking everyone else who is actually trying to do something real.

            So I plan to work almost entirely with people I can relate to face to face. In a situation like that, those who think they can be seen as “leaders” by attacking others won’t get very far. And developing a sense of solidarity will be possible…I hope.

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          • Ted, we learned in the 1960’s that in order to achieve social control one must isolate individuals, reduce them to in-fighting and thus destroy solidarity. They do this in prison and jail with great success. The powerful forces in our society are well educated in this process and they are doing it with many reform movements, in fact they have insiders who are taught to do these kind of disruptive acts within the reform movements themselves. I keep seeing it happen and it is so very discouraging. Your idea is great however it kind of makes the movement exclusive and almost needing an evaluation before your are admitted to the group. What do you think?

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    • I don’t know how to change this. But it has to change, because without a mass movement, the forces that will be necessary to end psychiatric oppression just aren’t there.

      Well these days there’s the internet. I enjoyed watching the video of you standing outside a conference inferring psychiatrists are sociopaths and it would be great if everyone thought that way but yeah they don’t.

      This site is great, there’s tonnes of real information here and so people can make their own individual choice. That is the most important thing imho, people being able to make their own choice.

      This is also tied into a whole sort-of level of deceit/paradigm change and the system clamping down. It’s a weird time, lot of lies exposed, system doubling down on those lies.

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  4. You can gloss it over all you want this lady is promoting her book. That being said do not disagree that the mental health industry for the majority believe in better mental health through chemistry which is proving to not be working so well. In the end you cannot throw the baby out with the bath water. How ever one wishes to define mental illness, short of saying it’s all fake, there need to be a understand that there are element, interest who just wish with the wave of their hand for mental illness to be gone and nothing be done to prevention, care or treatment. If you want to see how that is working come to the State of Texas which has the worse mental health care in the U.S.. It has gotten near medieval in the care and treatment of the mentally ill. Our prison and jails have became dungeons for the warehousing of the mentally ill. Our jails and prisons have became a never ending revolving door at the cost of three to four times of a traditional mental health facility which study after study has proven it only makes it worse for those with mental illness. In my state because of what some advocate here our communities are filled with the hungry, desperate, homeless mentally ill. If this is what you guys advocate than your heartless with zero compassion you would at least treat an animal better by euthanizing them. Hey at least take the mental ill to the local square and shot them in the back of the head which would be more compassionate than what we see happening to a lot of the mentally ill where we live in that they would not have to deal with the extreme suffering and degradation the way they do. One again agree there needs to be changes to the mental health industry with the understanding like shoes one sizes does not fit all to the care, therapy and treatment of the mentally ill.

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    • I think maybe they should first deal with the hungry and the homeless aspect and I can assure you a lot of the “mental illness” would be cured. Psych wards are prisons by another name and not a solution to anything.
      I don’t think you understand what we advocate for at all.

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      • B
        I agree those with mental illness need to be housed and feed but to claim it cures mental illness is total pabulum and non-sense. For many their mental illness came long before ever being homeless or hungry. Yep have been read mad in America for some time so clearly we know nothing about what is being advocated.

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        • @ManintheMoon,

          Speaking strictly for myself, an ex-child/adolescent psychiatric nurse who advocated for the human rights of my patients for over 20 years, I see the tide finally turning against psychiatry–led by a few psychiatrist’s who have been advocating for full disclosure of the clinical data on the infamous Paxil Study 329; advocating for the truth to be made public. It took 10 years to accomplish this.

          It has been 14 years since the original deceptively dangerous Study 329 was published in The American Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. I have personally witnessed the destruction of the the lives of thousands of kids who were prescribed SSRIs– drugs that were neither effective, nor safe according to the clinical trial data. Essentially, this means that both Pharma- in this study, GSK and the long list of prestigious academic psychiatric specialists, who sold their names for this ghost written journal article, colluded to commit fraud for profits in the billions of dollars. Millions of kids have been harmed– many have lost their lives. You can imagine why I am adamantly anti- CHILD psychiatry — at the very least.

          On September 15th, the article that reports the findings of Study 329 will be published by BMJ– but it will also be available on-line as the web site “goes live”. Unprecedented opportunity for anyone to also see the raw data from this clinical trial– for free.

          I have long advocated for the well documented fraud that has created the gold mine of psychiatry in collusion with Pharma; I have consistently advocated for this fraud to be prosecuted as a crime. This is the potential test case for the moment I have been waiting for–. I think it may also address your concerns regarding the mental health industry. This is where the baby can be safely separately from the bath water. Holding accountable those who have committed crimes against the most vulnerable people; identifying the M.O. of these crimes, and establishing a clear cut deterrent to committing these crimes moving forward would be a direct focus on the bad apples in the mental health industry– and a good place to start, don’t you agree?

          It is easy to get a good look at what this tide turning event is all about on the web site
          I recommend you start there and review pertinent facts/documents/videos at your own pace. then you will have a solid background for interpreting the material that is forthcoming– 12 days away!

          It might be too much to hope for restitution as part of the penalty for these crimes, but I like to think that there is a possibility that funding for real solutions and support of those currently in the mental health system would finally become available. Justice for all? I like to think…

          I appreciate that your criticism of MIA comes from fear of the loss of the only support you feel you have right now. But most of us who share radical anti-psychiatry views here also acknowledge that obliterating ALL of psychiatry- in one fell swoop is virtually impossible. I think you should also realize that the most radical views here come from those closest to the epicenter of psychiatry’s destructive forces– either as survivors of psychiatric abuse, or as witnesses of this ongoing scourge. We have long realized that the biomedical model IS psychiatry today. It is ALL psychiatry really is today.

          As a nurse who spent the first 14 years of my career working in the medical field, I have come to view the biomedical model of psychiatry as a malignant cancer. Regardless of the method chosen to treat malignant cancer, the treatment itself is daunting and often painful. Treatments like, chemo therapy and radiation are debilitating and can be very frightening. But unless we destroy the malignant cells of psychiatry– this biomedical model cancer, there is no cure.

          The good news, and I do want to end on a hopeful note, is that once the malignant cells of psychiatry are destroyed, there will definitely be a huge reduction in the number of new psychiatric patients. My guess is that there are enough professionals in and around the mental health field, who will be glad for the opportunity to work on solutions for — what amounts to “our” problems as a society. You won’t be left out.


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        • We are not claiming that what you experience is unreal or untrue, we just don’t agree with the “experts” as to why you experiences these terrible things. What psychiatry and drug companies want to call “mental illness” many of us believe to be the normal responses to the trauma and severe difficulties that you and many of us here have endured and survived in life. None of us would ever claim that your experiences and issues are not real.

          None of us here are saying that people suffering people should just be allowed to run wild. There are better things that can be done for people than filling them up with toxic drugs and making zombies out of them. We are not saying that people shouldn’t receive treatment, we are saying that the “treatment” that the system wants to force on us is no treatment or help at all and in fact ends up causing the very things the system says that the drugs treat.

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          • ManintheMoon,
            It’s exactly as Stephen Gilbert says. Severe emotional distress is very real, no one denies that. People feeling hopeless, having overwhelming anxiety, or experiencing hallucinations do indeed indeed need help. You are correct also that current responses to severe emotional distress in all its forms is pathetic.

            But saying those things is very different from asserting that discrete mental illnesses exist caused by brain chemistry malfuction, or caused be other biological or genetic factors. Understanding life problems as brain malfunctions or “illnesses” is not only objectively mistaken, it is dehumanizing and makes it harder for people to become emotionally well.

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    • My daughter is in a different kind of revolving door in Oregon; from foster home to acute care facility to state hospital. There is only a hair’s difference between most psychiatric facilities and jails. In some ways I think being in jail is an advantage. When one is in jail one’s constitutional rights are enforced with greater frequency. One knows that has the right to be speedily charged and speedily receive an arraignment. When one is convicted and sentenced one has a TIME limit put on their incarceration, which is IN WRITING from the get go, unlike in a psychiatric facility when there is some ambiguous release date based on a subjective say-so of treatment providers and psychiatrists who have their favorites. I can tell you up front that people who are generally non compliant with their medications and wish to live a MEDICATION free lifestyle are generally given the worst diagnoses, and enjoy longest stays in psychiatric facilities. These facilities are becoming like brainwashing stations. Unless a patient admits that they have a mental illness and is willing to take the medications or receive their monthly depot injection, THEY WILL NOT GET RELEASED. Reminds me of the days of the inquisition when villages tortured witches and we did not release the ‘witches’ unless they confessed to consorting with the Devil. Maybe you identify with your diagnosis. That is your choice. If it gives you consolation that you have a chemical imbalance that disables you and makes it difficult for you to live in the world without support, good for you. That is your choice. But that choice is taken away for my daughter. She has no choice. She is forcibly institutionalized and forcibly treated/medicated. Her side effects are now indistinguishable and the psychological harm of being isolated/restrained/institutionalized are now indistinguishable from her original trauma that led me to seek care on her behalf. Psychiatry has nearly taken her life.

      What Dr. Burstow is doing is giving families like ours hope that there will be a reduction in the harm done by psychiatry.

      Your have a right to say and think what you like about these arguments being used to defund the mental health system and you have a right to believe that we need to throw more money at the system but as far as I’m concerned the mental health system throughout the U.S. Not just in Texas is rotten and hellish and corrupt.

      Your appear to be happy with the services you are receiving so I’m happy that you are well served. But my daughter is not being well served. She is being forced to receive psychiatric services and forced to live in an intentional community not of her own choosing with kids her own age. She cannot choose to decline medication or they will hold her down and force her to be medicatedThe majority of workers at both psychiatric facilities and jail guards are low wage workers with little training in rehabilitation

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      • And Maninthe Moon my husband and I all seriously considering removing our daughter form our health insurance policy. As far as we can tell her being double insured only seems to encourage the hospitals to make her stay longer. She is a cash cow for the system. I don’t think throwing more money at this corrupt system will help greater numbers of people. Take the money and give it to consumers directly so they can choose their own treatment! In six years, the ‘system’ has spent nearly a MILLION dollars on my daughter’s care with nothing to show! For a small fraction of this shameful fortune she could have been provided housing, a Soteria experience, a college education, speech therapy, dance therapy, art therapy, a trip around the world, a lifetime gym membership, weekly visits to the spa for bodywork, etc. etc. Sir, you are grievously wrong that lack of money is the reason for the poor outcomes of our atrocious mental health system. And one more thing, my daughter is only 26 years old and she has had a lien put on all her future property and wages to pay the state of Oregon over $10o,000 for her involuntary treatment which she wanted no part in.

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        • madmom are you claiming your daughter has no, zero mental health issues? And some are claiming let those who are severally mental ill just run crazy and wild and every one just except it that in such cases society should have no protection. Sorry we do not buy into such non-sense, Sure it wrong that your daughter is being charge into perpetuity Hey we get it but we say let the government eat it because they are the biggest stumbling block for the mentally ill. Sure the mental health system is absolutely broken and shattered in America no arguments. No it not right some state being allowed to put leans against the sick. Hey and we said it no one treatment fits all. Here is the big problem with a lot of consumer of the mental health industry that you expect these people to fix you or yours like magic. At best they are a guide to help one fix themselves. If your mental ill and think wrongly there is nothing wrong with you and do not want to make the effort to heal than no type of treatment will suffice. madmon clearly your daughter had mental health issue before the state step in and you had zero success in fix her problem seems let her do as she wishes did not work well for you either.

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          • @ ManintheMoon

            How many people do you represent? re:
            ” Sorry we do not buy into such non-sense”

            I have been on the front lines , witnessing the exact *mis*treatment of young people that madmom has described as her own daughter’s agonizing ordeal. Which, by the way certainly does cause a long list of mental health issues for the kids who are forced to take brain damaging drugs and locked up away from everything that has meaning to them– AND their significant others who are helpless to stop this torture.

            You and yours are way off base with your pronouncements. This type of careless judgment and insensitivity is what fuels this system– BTW.

            You need a better argument– like :”The Mental Health Industry is Too Big to Fail”– something that can at least be supported with facts.


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          • maninthemoon:

            Of course I am not implying that my daughter did not have mental health issues to begin with. She was bullied at her school and everyone in our family was and is experiencing trauma. By being the diagnosed one she was became the family ‘barometer’ at best and the family ‘scapegoat’ at worst. But in no way do I believe that she has a permanent ‘chemical imbalance’ that can all be sorted out by neuroleptics for life, as they are currently prescribed. Neuroleptics are causing people to develop tardive psychosis.

            How is the public protected when people like my daughter are chemically restrained for life and chemically lobotomized? Are you referring to the protection of property by those ‘crazies’ who commit misdemeanors such as littering or trespassing on your lawn? Are you talking about school shootings? My daughter is no axe murderer. Instead of thinking about protecting a small segment of society who will be affected by the rare instances when a ‘crazy’ person is violent or commits a crime, you should be thinking of the huge transfer of wealth from the struggling middle class, those who still pay taxes to fund this sinking ship called the mental health system. You and me, the taxpayer will be on the hook for the millions of dollars it takes to keep people chronically ill and dependent on our welfare system as cruddy and niggardly as that system is.

            My daughter never received any alternative treatment choices during her first episode early psychosis–only meds and restraints–now she will need services for years, hopefully not for life, services that are more costly to deliver than early effective alternative interventions; services such as costly supported employment to teach her how to put widgets together or sweep floors, ACT, supported housing, diabetes management, kidney transplants, dentures for the grinding tooth caused by tardive dyskenesia, polypharmacy to the tune of $2000/month, hospitalization after frequent relapses etc. Not to mention that people like her often never become productive tax payers. If you want to protect the public then find alternatives that FIRST DO NO HARM that help people to return to full productivity and inclusion in the community quickly and do not cause learned helplessness. Believe me, you are not at any risk from my daughter but your bottom line is if you pay taxes.

            Furthermore, when I took her to the ER they stripped her clothes and put her in a windowless isolation chamber. When she tried to run away they strapped her down and put her in five point restraints and injected her by force. When they loosened the binds finally, the first thing she did was punch the nurse who tied the restraints in the first place. This was the first violent act she ever committed unless I count the time she punched her brother when she was eight years old. Then the hospital staff charged her with assault! If you took restraints, harmful labeling, and forced drugging out of the equation many of the crimes committed by those ‘crazies’ would diminish substantially!

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          • Maninthemoon,

            you do not seem to appreciate that we have a wholesale epidemic of mental illness thanks largely to drug-based treatment. Children who are shy are labeled with social anxiety and drugged, with bad results. The bogus epidemic of childhood bipolar illness (that never used to exist until Big Pharma started focusing on children) is driven to a great extent by giving children antidepressants and stimulants. Once the child is labeled as bipolar, he/she gets the full toxic cocktail treatment. Yes, children have learning and behavior issues that are manageable and treatable with therapy, nutrients, diet and other non-drug approaches. What can be a manageable problem becomes a chronic serious illness thanks to drugs. But take heart; you are not the only one to miss this. The majority of psychiatrists cannot conceive that a very disturbed person got that way because of “treatment.” Yes, mental illness did exist before drugs, but there was much less of it, and recovery rates were higher.

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  5. Many psychiatrists are confident that their viewpoints about medication’s effectiveness and diagnoses’ usefulness and validity are correct or will be proven correct through future research. Unfortunately the search for biological or genetic causes for most “mental illness” is as doomed as the seemingly unsinkable Titanic was after it struck the iceberg. And life problems will never be solved and rarely markedly improved through pills. These ideas are already dead, but people don’t know it yet.

    Hopefully mainstream psychiatry – mainstream psychiatry denoting the fantasy that medication should be the front line treatment for problems in living, and the myth that life problems can be organized into “diagnoses” with common causes in brain chemistry or genes – will eventually collapse as a critical mass of the public loses faith in its lies and poisoned offerings.

    There is one factor not mentioned in all of this – the internet. In the last 10 years, the transfer of information has accelerated massively in a way never before seen in human history. Never before can so many people quickly access so much information. This is a complicated subject, but one positive aspect of it is that if awareness-raising of sites like Mad in America continues and accelerates, more and more people will be confronted with the uncomfortable fact that valid reliable categories of mental illnesses do not exist, and that neuroleptics are not effective long-term treatments for anything.

    The facts are in our favor, not establishment psychiatry’s… On the other hand, psychiatric misinformation can reach many people quickly online too, with much financial support from the distorters and drug companies to promote it. One has to hope that people will be attracted more over time to the readily available messages of how emotional distress really operates and what can heal it that sites like this provide.

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      • But the internet also makes it much easier for those so inclined to trash other people. I have seen in the survivor movement that there is almost no trashing (though there may be some anger expressed) in face to face meetings. Internet meetings are not real, although we like to think they are.

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        • That is true; it is in many ways a very unreal form of communication, since 80% or so of “real” human communication involves verbal tones and gestures, plus the prospect of immediate retaliation verbally or even physically if you upset another person.

          I recently read that over 10% of US electricity generation now goes solely toward maintaining the massive servers and cooling systems needed to keep the internet running. It’s pretty incredible how large the net is getting.

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        • Internet conversations also allow people to be disrespectful and mean since they know that it’s very unlikely that they will ever come face to face with the person that they’re trashing. They would never get away with the things that they say on the internet to people if they were facing those very people at the time they were talking.

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  6. I agree psychiatry promotes illogical diagnoses and prescribes dangerous drugs. The reason I come to MIA and post is I’m a psychiatric survivor who was told she had “a disease like diabetes” (his words) that the drugs would make better. The drugs starting changing my behavior, my perception and when I told the psychiatrist how strange I felt he said it was not the drugs, only me becoming more and more mentally ill. What profession does this? Who else gets away with these ridiculous statements that follow you around in your medical record?? By the way my psychiatrist was in private practice.

    I was able to get my psychiatrist’s records and read how he had no idea what was wrong with me. Why then did he prescribe more and more poly drugging for something he didn’t understand? Even more unbelievable is when I was almost done tapering off all these drugs he wrote I was barely depressed, he was perplexed. The man could not fathom the drugs had made me very ill emotionally and physically.

    I wish I was more involved with letting others know what happened to me but I’m scared of repercussions even today. Partly shame and fear.

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    • Quite an ordeal, Aria. A comment that may or may not be helpful. I won’t say that you have nothing to fear, for I do not know your situation. But I sincerely doubt that you have anything to be ashamed of. Systems that intrude us have less power over us when we let the shame go, that is, when we refuse to see ourselves through “their eyes”.

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      • My psych diagnosis is in my medical records. Thank goodness my city has two separate hospital authorities and I now to to the other one. The diagnosis I have brands me and I was so ill treated by physician who’d never met me before I stepped into their office. One of my siblings is a psychologist and she said it was unfortunate I was wrongly diagnosed and drugged (at the time she did not know the drugs were what was making me weird). How do we refute a wrong psychiatric diagnosis in our permanent records?

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        • “”How do we refute a wrong psychiatric diagnosis in our permanent records?””

          I don’t think you can unless a doctor agrees to remove it. My understanding is the only recourse you have is to write an explanation and ask that it be placed in your medical records.

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  7. “Mental illness is real, it is brain disease, and treatment works.” “We’re going to ‘cure’ violence in this country by fixing the broken mental health system.” There are so many things wrong with statements of this sort that that boat shouldn’t float in the first place. If it is beginning to sink, doing so is long overdue. The boat was only floating by “virtue” of lies upon lies anyway.

    40 years ago criticism of psychiatry was not such a rare thing. Nowadays “mental health treatment” is the state’s answer to random acts of violence by lone gunmen. I don’t think blaming people targeted by the mental health system for violence makes a great lot of sense except in terms of increasing drug company clout, and facilitating new growth for the “mental illness” industry. By and large, none of the people in the mental health system have anything to do with any violence taking place in the world today whatsoever.

    In the 19th century, an asylum building boom lead to a dramatic rise, something like 10-fold, in the numbers of people characterized as ‘lunatic’, and imprisoned in such institutions. I think their excuse was that they were getting people off the streets, and out of jails and poorhouses. In the 21st century, blaming violence on people with problems (i.e. that set of people described as having “mental illness”) has contributed to this same sort of industrial growth.

    Hopefully, yes, the absurdity of this situation is finally beginning to hit home.

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  8. Frank
    Do not believe any one is claiming that fixing the broken and shattered mental health system in American will address all violence in America much less the world. Then to try and carry a narrative that the mental health system in America is not broken when there is more than supporting evidence to say otherwise is non-sense on your part. Then again we fully support the rights of others to believe in little green man from outer space, unicorns, fairies and big foot.
    For those claiming jails and prisons are better or equal to a mental health facility well the last two times we were in the rubber room Hilton did not remember having to put up with attacks by Surenos, Barrio Azteca, or other such gangs. Did not have to worry if we drop the soap. There is more than enough evidence to support death rates among the mentally ill in prisons and jails is much higher than mental facilities. Some on this point surely needs to get a reality check.
    We never claimed drug therapy was a great opinion and do believe it should be the last opinion. Never claimed that changes are not needed in the mental health industry.
    Some posted they a have never seen us on MIA. Well the post here are why those with opposing view or why mostly only one narrative is carried here. We get it all mental health industry bad and only your solution is the best to address mental health issue. Maybe you should reexamine your own tone deafness also on the issue. Maybe both sides did to get together and bring the best ideas to the table to address the care of the mentally ill instead of us and them that never helps no one.

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      • “Mental illness” and “mental health” are metaphors. That’s why I’ve got them in quotation marks. The are words denoting something else, figures of speech, no more, no less.

        I presume you’re “we” is editorial. Please, don’t include me in it.

        I’m not reaching for a gun, ManintheMoon. Not me. When it comes it comes to psychiatric atrocities, I believe in non-violent forms of protest. Non-violent forms of protest, education, legislation, and court action. If anybody is a ticking time-bomb, that anybody is not me.

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        • Something that might be interesting is to bring the open discussion to the general public rather than to wait for the polity to stop ignoring us. Personal experiences, questions, proposals that directly involve the public and educate them so they feel involved instead of the chaos and misinformation used by the news media and politicians.

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          • Thank you so much for your piece, Bonnie. You are completely correct on the facts. You are importantly correct when you assert, “Critique alone can easily be dismissed.” What is necessary is to get the truth about psychiatry into the hands of opinion leaders and MSM gate keepers who will position it where it will it will have a chance to reach and enter public consciousness. That was the goal of the 2003 Fast for Freedom as shown in the MindFreedom sponsored film “Where’s the Evidence?: A Challenge to Psychiatric Authority”

            Unfortunately, internal politics regarding tactics prevented a follow up to the hunger strike. What’s missing in the “movement” are folks with a serious interest in developing the sorts of actual strategies and tactics capable of draining psychiatry of its respect and authority over time (by “attrition” as you have previously termed it, Bonnie).

            So here’s another idea: Let’ use the most persuasive folks we have to convince some legislators to carry and pass a bill which would mandate that all mass murderers and others whose violent crimes appear senseless, whether these are living are or suicides, be subject to psychological and physical “autopsies”

            As you and others have indicated there is now both confirmed and anecdotal evidence that a significant number of newsworthy killers have psych treatment histories which have included psychoactive drugs. Should this be revealed to be true under LEGAL MANDATE a major societal role for psychiatry will have been proven to be unworthy of societal support. Other than to assert that the mandate would not be affordable (hardly a good argument) I believe that there are no good objections to the legislation as suggested. At MIA’s film festival last October, David Cohen asserted that the principal role psychiatry plays on behalf of our culture, that is, to control annoying, disturbing, and violent people is its primary bulwark against change. The legislation I suggest should spotlight the flaw in that reasoning. This will be one more step toward draining psychiatry of its respect and authority, just as the hunger strike revealed publicly (though not publicly enough) that there is no orthodox, scientific evidence supportive of psychiatry’s claims. It is when psychiatry has been shown to be worthless or nearly so, that it will fall from the beams which support it and die of social and cultural starvation. If we wish to abolish psychiatry, it is high time we spend serious time considering what steps are necessary to get the job done. We know the desired ends. Who is up for discussing practical means?

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    • The other side is never going to sit down with us and dialog because they see no reason to talk in the first place. They are the “experts” and we should bow down and accept what they tell us. There is no reason for discussion or dialog with this kind of an attitude.

      Slave owners didn’t give up ownership of their slaves on their own; it took a major war in this nation to make them free their slaves. We’ve tried to find common ground with the other side but they have no desire to talk with us. There are individuals who are good people and who are also psychiatrists, but the guild that is the APA and psychiatry in general is not going to sit down and talk with us unless we force them to do so. How we are going to do this is anyone’s guess but that’s the way it will happen if it happens at all. You are just blowing smoke through your hat if you think otherwise. That is just too Pollyanna.

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      • I agree, there is no real intention for transparent dialogue in the mh world. The list of hidden agendas is endless, as evidenced by chronic defensiveness on the part of clinician when they hear something that triggers their own issues. Happens all the time in private therapy meetings, who wouldn’t this be the case in larger scale dialogues about general issues? (This is where training really falters, imo–ownership falls by the wayside, and that is extremely dangerous for a client because they are blamed for any conflict, whereas, in reality, the clinician is double-binding, that’s the tool for control).

        And even though we all know that $$ is a huge factor in all this, I think at the core of it all is a truly deep-seated need to be ‘right,’ which, of course, undermines any opportunity to actually get at the truth of the matter. That need can make people really obsessive, and totally resistant to understanding the point of view of another.

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        • Alex:

          I totally agree with you. The problems encountered by advocating for oneself or a loved one in the MH system are a metaphor for the problems one encounters when advocating publicly for a revolution in the MH system. Clinicians do indeed get triggered and we need therapy for the therapists who are unaware of the harm they mete out by double binding their clients. Thank you, as always for seeing the danger of advocating from within. It is a lot different than advocating from say, an ivory tower?

          Those who have the most to gain from a revolution in the MH system, have the most to lose. Reprisal is real. The patient who wanders up and down a hospital hallway shouting about he/she is going ‘to sue this hospital for violating my rights’ are the first to get medicated, by force, if necessary. They tend to get the highest doses of the most harmful medications. They get sniggered at by psychiatrists, interns, psychiatric nurses. Their Haldol and Thorazine injections are administered with downright hate. Anyone who is triggered has a shadow and when staff members are all simultaneously triggered, they circle the wagons and reinforce the harm by failing to own their own sadism. They reinforce their the goodness and kindness of their profession, and massage one another’s ‘rightness’ just like Christians who go to church and reinforce how good and kind they are, even as they listen to a pulpit sermon against gays and lesbians.

          I agree with you that ‘being right’ (another word for ‘power’ ) may be the bigger issue than the issue of funding but I’ll have to reflect on the ramifications of this. There are a lot of implications for adopting this view. Some people on this site have identified capitalism and greed as the single biggest enemy of creating a revolution in the MH system. What you are suggesting is that taking the motive of profit out of the equation will not necessarily end psychiatric harm.

          I’ll think about that for a while. Have a great day. I’m canning tomatoes and I can smell that they are ready.

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          • It is extremely risky to call out systemic abuse from the inside, and I’ve done it several times–and each time I was met with the exact same stigma and consequences, of being ostracized from that particular community. All simply because I questioned actions that were totally discriminatory, there was no question about that. Rather than investigating, which would have been the responsible, legal, and INTELLIGENT thing to do, what I got instead was pure retaliation.

            I got no support from client peers, even though they felt just as oppressed as I did, because they were so scared of ‘getting into trouble’ (flashback to childhood trauma); and of course any clinical or social service staff anywhere banded together to make me look…well, like someone I am not. They literally spread lies, but I caught them at it, proving that in no way could what they were claiming be true. Aside from being liars, they weren’t terribly bright, either.

            However, I won my legal mediation and I got my film made and shown within the system and several of its tangents, calling out the system from within the system. Thanks to one miracle door opening after another once I took this particular risk, it all led to my absolute freedom. I credit my ability to not take any of this personally, stay neutral in my perspective, and to see that it was all symptomatic of an imbalanced, fear-based, and discriminatory society. This is how the system operates. If you call them on anything, they will literally drive you crazy, or at least try to. We can certainly have solid boundaries around them.

            In my experience throughout all of this, dialogue never led to anything of substance, it was all merely an ego battle, and a costly one at that. When I speak my truth now, I speak it with no expectation at all from others, and only ever look for the feeling of being just that more free, which always occurs when I speak my heart’s truth with ownership and self-responsibility. From that feeling of freedom, new and more desirable manifestations occur, and all sorts of new pathways open up in life.

            That’s been my experience, in any event, ever since I woke up to what was happening in the system, and challenged it every step of the way.

            So even though it’s a risk to advocate for one’s self, I believe this is the only way we will feel our true inherent power over our own lives. Our freedom resides in our own ability to take back authority over our lives.

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  9. An encouraging article. I don’t know if it’s totally accurate to say the tide is turning, but you’ve done a great job of compiling a number of contradictions and schisms, both within and outside of the psychiatric “profession,” which in time will surely lead to some sort of collapse of the whole game. Hopefully it doesn’t fall on us. I think you would probably agree that while these developments pave the way for us to make real progress, “objective conditions” don’t automatically lead the way to revolution, and can be used by reactionary forces to achieve the opposite result. It’s that “subjective factor,” i.e. how well we take advantage of these vulnerabilities in the opposition as they arise, which determines our success or failure.

    each and every tempering of psychiatry under a reform agenda has culminated in the return of biological psychiatry with a vengeance. As such, despite good intentions—and I am in no way doubting the intentions and hard work of most of the people involved — all “reformism” ultimately succeeds in doing is losing the momentum

    Reform is possible in a situation where the basic foundation of something is positive, but has become corrupted. With psychiatry the basic principles are fundamentally flawed, so any “reforms” just reshape the same old sh-t in a different mold.

    What makes setting our sights on but tempering it and/or but adding “alternatives” the “practical” option?

    Thank you — a false but disconcertingly effective argument against the movement has always been to guilt-trip people over not having “alternatives.” The alternative is ending capitalism and the ongoing trauma and alienation it causes. But many people want simplistic solutions to problems they don’t care to understand or explore. It’s not our job to indulge them by offering the illusion that anything can truly change for the better under a corporate dictatorship.

    As the song goes, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. I agree that the current hyperdrive push for more & more “mental health” whether people want it or not may indeed portend a fracturing and eventual breakup of the whole system. Let’s hope. More important, let’s learn what our best moves may be and when to make them.

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    • I would absolutely agree, Oldhead, that nothing is automatic here. And for sure, reactionary forces are always there and eager to exert an influence, and I believe that simple reformism–which I sees as a fundamental error–prepares the way for reactionary forces to do this. Hence my worry about reformism and my attempt to encourage a more revolutionary agenda.

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    • Thank you — a false but disconcertingly effective argument against the movement has always been to guilt-trip people over not having “alternatives.” The alternative is ending capitalism and the ongoing trauma and alienation it causes.

      I don’t want to derail whatever goes on with this site sometimes but I feel like this always seems to creep in. I feel like i’m doing the derailing but really, it feels like i’m trying to keep the damn thing on the rails. There’s people trying to make it about feminism, race, capitalism, global warming.

      Psychiatry can fuck over anyone that gets caught up in it.

      You mention capitalism but psychiatric style oppression kicked along just fine in Soviet Russia… it went gang busters. Any system is really going to be as good as the people running it. Maybe the left wing academic type people feel they’re going to be on the good side of all this, like they will benefit but the death of one system isn’t some guarantee things will be better for everyone, in fact, more people might end up getting screwed.

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      • There is no question, barrab, that psychiatry messes up everyone that it gets its hands on and it is getting its hands on more and more people–and anyone who does not understand that for sure is derailing the discussion that needs to be had. It is its own oppression. That said, like all oppressions, it interacts with other oppressions and so it is not a mistake to look at this dimension (just a mistake, I would suggest, to reduce to those other oppressions) I have talked about this elsewhere, and if so inclined, you might want to look at an interview with me about my latest book where I discussed this and see what you think–we might have a meeting of the minds here and we might not. Anyways, it can be found at

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      • You mention capitalism but psychiatric style oppression kicked along just fine in Soviet Russia

        I never used the USSR as a model for anything. The Russian Revolution for as long as it lasted never abolished capitalism, though for awhile it took some baby steps in that direction.

        Anyway the failure of one attempt to solve the problem of capitalism doesn’t take away from the basic analysis that a system based on greed and corporate rule has devastating consequences for the human spirit. Not to mention our stomachs.

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        • Many of the great thinkers of the late 20th century agree totally with you here. People don’t like to hear it, but capitalism is one of the great problems, not only for those of us labeled as “mentally ill”, it’s a problem for this country and if our society is going to survive in any way, we’re going to have to do something about the forced consumption that capitalism bases itself on.

          In many ways, capitalism causes the severe poverty that we see now and this poverty is only going to increase over the next decades. But, notice that it’s not only the poor who end up in the mental prisons. Rich and well to do people also end up in such prisons but we don’t see them in the state hospitals like the one I work in because they go to the “private” institutions away from the unwashed masses. The drive to consume at greater and greater levels does not bring happiness and creates its own stressors.

          Sorry, I got carried away here but I think that the problem facing us is much more involved than we want to realize and there are multitudes of things in our society that we need to look at and evaluate in our struggle to free ourselves from the oppressive “mental health” system. Capitalism is one of the greatest of these intertwined problems that need assessing.

          And I’m waiting for someone to post that I need to either “love our country or leave it” if I’m not satisfied here. The same thing that was told to those of us who protested the Viet Nam War. Capitalism is cannibalizing us and we refuse to look at it and admit it. I believe that it has profound influences on what happens to our mental health in ways that we don’t even begin to realize.

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  10. So a question that I would direct to the people who want to build on the turn and who want to see psychiatry become a thing of the past–for it will not happen if we do not keep the goal firmly mind and act strategically in this direction–what do you think our priorities should be right now? Strategically speaking, what should each of us be doing? And what should we be taking on together?

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    • Individuals could begin picketing those damned NAMI walkathons to make money for the “treatment” of those poor “mentally ill” people!

      People could begin picketing out in front of state hospitals where the poorest and most stressed of us are held since we are looked at as “those who’ve burned their bridges everywhere else”.

      NAMI holds total in the city where I live and work and if large enough numbers of people would gather and picket their walks then we might begin making the news here and there.

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      • Well, those are fine tactics in & of themselves. But we need a winning strategy. Hopefully this thread will be up long enough to consider what it should be.

        My top of the head thoughts?

        — Striking at psychiatry’s economic base by depriving it of voluntary “consumers” through mass education about the myth of “mental illness” and psychiatric “treatments.” Help distressed people understand that they are reacting normally to a toxic system and need to transform that system rather than forcing themselves to “adjust to it.”

        — Recognize that psychiatry is not a “helping profession” but part of the prison system and building solidarity with the existing prisoners movement.

        — Make ending involuntary “treatment” a key demand not only of survivors but of the larger movement. Educate social activists and make them understand that they can’t speak on behalf of oppressed people while allowing their own friends and family members to be diagnosed and drugged without consequence.


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        • “Striking at psychiatry;s economic base by depriving it of voluntary “consumers” ……………+
          As we understand people are having problems in living as they react normally to a toxic system . These normal reactions are like a bobber going underwater to brainwashed families contacting psyche police fishing for individuals to transform their transitory reactions into a lifetime condition of suspended animation slavery and income for themselves. If as we grow the anti- psychiatry movement we can suggest ( maybe put into voluntarily produced leaflets, newsletter, and/or websites) to the population , grass roots natural self actualizing ideas on how not to be captured by the system , put together by survivors like myself who have escaped from the tortures of psychiatry. For example what to do about insomnia , mercury poisoning , betrayal trauma , where to find people going through or who have gone through the same thing etc. all on a free grass roots level outside any coercive life , future, and reputation robbing , and record keeping , environments.
          Just some thoughts , see the film “Ethos” on Netflix made in memory of Howard Zinn and narrated by the actor Woody Harrelson. It has some real excellent analysis that is sure to help us somehow.

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          • The 70’s movement started with grassroots consciousness-raising and hand-produced leaflets and newsletters. I think my own original connection (aside from a general contempt for psychiatry I developed from reading Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin) came from issues of The Radical Therapist I somehow came across while I was a psychiatric inmate. You can be sure I learned nothing about the movement from reading “mainstream” journalism, and we should have no such expectations today. When the grassroots get stronger and well enough organized the corporate press will be “covering” us, but be careful about what you wish for.

            Thanks for the film tip btw.

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      • Picketing works when you have a sizeable group of people to do it. When you don’t, people just think a few “outside the mainstream” radicals are doing something “silly.” Ten people holding signs looks like something “crazy” that people just ignore rather than something “serious” that they might be missing out on and want to find out more..

        I would suggest other guerrilla tactics until a community has a hundred or so people committed to a visible action like picketing. Examples would be anonymously plastering messaging on the signs, walls, doors of psychiatric lock-up facilities, letter to editor writing campaigns, plaster 8.5×11 factsheets or slogans on public benches, public billboards – and while doing that use the same free advertising options to host local meet-ups, build local teams shooting for a goal of 100 people per county…. then start talking about picketing.

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        • All those ideas are fine actually, including the ten people picketing as far as that goes; it all depends on the particular circumstance.

          However, I get what you’re saying and would like to point out that simply “protesting” without the power to credibly DEMAND things and put those demands into effect can also be experienced as an act of weakness; in other words, they’ll be happy for us to knock ourselves out protesting, i.e. complaining, as long as we remain powerless to change anything.

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    • Hello Bonnie, I am late with this but I have 1 suggestion for the movement as a whole…to ally itself with similar causes. I am currently reading Steven Druker’s book “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth,” the GMO story or “How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government and Systematically Deceived the Public.” The themes are eerily similar, actually identical, to those in Robert Whitaker’s most recent book that he co-authored with Lisa Cosgrove: corruption of science with the active participation of mainstream scientists; the government’s (FDA’s) betrayal of its obligation to be a steward of the public interest; the news’ media’s abdication of its duty to inform the public, and the resulting deception of the public and detriment to public health. Environmental illnesses, such as multiple chemical sensitivity, are on the rise, thanks to the chemicals that are allowed to be in all kinds of products, including personal care products. Some of those people have been disbelieved and psychiatrized; we should make common cause with them. I would also look into the telecom industry (e.g., the impact of EMF pollution, the connection between brain cancer and cell phones) and the food industry’s sugar lobby. There is strength in numbers and showing that the harm done by psychiatry is part of a broader trend could be effective. On an individual level, I have found that people (NAMI parents, skeptical doctors) will listen and take note if you can point to a success story and show that non-drug alternatives work.

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  11. Margiealtman, you wrote:

    ” Your idea is great however it kind of makes the movement exclusive and almost needing an evaluation before your are admitted to the group. What do you think?”

    I think that yes, that could be a problem. I haven’t been trying to work it out in my mind because it is all I can do to stay in the movement in some fashion. But I guess my answer would be that such selective meetings would not be “the movement.” They would be a few groups among many. Those who wanted to trash everyone else would be free to do that to each other. Those who wanted to work together as mutually respectful comrades could do that. Hopefully, the people who mainly wanted to hassle everyone else would wind up disappearing, at least that is what I would like to see.

    I think having such selective groups/conferences would be very helpful. If someone else would like to organize them, I would participate.

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  12. Dr. Burstow:

    You ask: “what do you think our priorities should be right now? Strategically speaking, what should each of us be doing? And what should we be taking on together?
    Here is my two cents worth:

    1)nOrganize to build the urgently underground railroad, off ramps for people to safely withdraw from neuroleptic drugs without being rehospitalized and drugged at ever higher levels. Donate to projects like Inner Fire or the Soteria movement in your community. Build network of private resources (non system funded) nso low income people undergoing neuroleptic withdrawal can safely stay in houses or hotels with companions and guardians while accessing alternative medical care until the worst is over.

    2) Challenge NAMI in public. Gain media attention and throw down the gauntlet with NAMI. The APA won’t dialog with us but NAMI may need to be more responsive to an open challenge from consumers/family members because they purport to represent us.

    3) Direct Action: I agree with Stephen Gilbert that we should considering picketing the NAMI marches or at least in some way, publicly challenge NAMI’s message and legitimacy with the intention reducing their membership, donor base, and clout in the legislature.

    4) That having been said, we need a replacement for NAMI. We need their membership. Not sure how to migrate members to other authentic consumer organizations if alternatives don’t exist yet. Support the alternatives in your community. Don’t just bitch on this site. Donate money. If you don’t have money, donate volunteer hours. Go to your local MindFreedom affiliate and help them make phone calls, build their database, distribute flyers, organize gatherings. MFI needs your support. Renew your membership. Tell your friends to renew their memberships.

    5) Find a place for family members. The gay movement has their PFLAG. We need a place for family members to get support. The movement needs the resources of family members. The movement needs to be led by people with lived experience but people with lived experience need to delegate roles to family members in the movement.

    6) Publicly challenge NAMI in specially selected cities where we have good inroads with the media (cities in which organizers have solid contacts or a track record of success involving the media) NAMI gets a lot of media attention for it’s hypocritical ‘stigma busting’ campaign and we need to take back the anti stigma campaign which rightfully belongs, first and foremost to those who have been most harmed by psychiatry and haven’t been brainwashed by the medical propoganda adopted by NAMI. We could picket NAMI’s conferences or their walk a thons as suggested by Stephen Gilbert.

    7) Develop a national teaching platform to end NAMI’s monopoly on education of family members. There are glimmers of hope in the development of educational materials. eCPR and ‘Families Healing Together’ by the FEMHC are examples of educational. We need to support the dissemination of these materials by making donations of time and/or money to organizations which are developing and promotion alternative teaching materials and promoting those resources through our personal networks (social media included)

    8) Build a coalition with a single purpose, mission and share language. We should carefully select one simple message and train our organizers to stay on this message. The message: ‘End Psychiatry’ is not simple enough because it begs a lengthy explanation. Try telling someone on the street that the data does not support conventional psychiatric treatment. That takes too much time and that is not the message we need to print on our flags when the media is giving us our five minutes (or five seconds) We can see even on the posts in this discussion how the message ‘end psychiatry’ lends itself to a counter argument because it ends up sounding as if we are saying: “End services to those in mental distress.”

    9) Even if people are abolitionists, this does not make for a good message unless it is the subject of a long, unbiased article or book.

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    • “NAMI gets a lot of media attention for it’s hypocritical ‘stigma busting’ campaign and we need to take back the anti stigma campaign which rightfully belongs, first and foremost to those who have been most harmed by psychiatry”

      AMEN. Blatant stigma is how oppression and discrimination become socially acceptable and spread like wildfire throughout a community. It is a real and inherent danger to individuals and society, and is completely perpetuated by the mh system and field, which are inherently dualistic.

      Indeed, the reality of how this stigma works as a tool for disenfranchising people and keeping them dependent on the system has become corrupt and undermined by the hypocrisy of these ‘advocacy’ agencies, becoming a tool for marketing and funding for the system.

      Thanks, Madmom, I think this is a key point–how these issues become co-opted and used simply to get more business, rather than working toward actually helping people to heal. Such a scam, and it screws everything up for those of us who went through all of this with integrity.

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      • I think it would help to have a physical national/international organization that was inclusive and took a radically antipsychiatry stance. Psychiatry is very well organized. The government led “consumer” etc. movement is anything but a antipsychiatry development. It’s hard to do anything as isolated groups of individuals without any kind of connection beyond sympathies. If we had an organization that held periodic conferences that included demonstrations such would be a 100 % improvement. I was gratified to attend the PsychOut Conference in NYC. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to see more and more of. It was to my way of thinking an “alternative” to the Alternatives Conference. We don’t have that because we aren’t organized.

        NAMI is organized. That’s how they’ve got these stupid walks going year after year. Big Pharma is organized, too. Ditto, psychiatry. Government, too. Want to make a statement. Do a demonstration. Etc. Labor knew. No rights without working for them. Just like labor unions, we need our own unity, we need some kind of organization. You can’t dream leverage, more or less, you have to work for it, and organization is a way to get that work done.

        Also, wary, wary, wary regarding the acceptance of government funding. The FBI has done plenty in the past to sabotage civil rights movements. The NSA is spying on about everybody, and you don’t spy on people you trust. Co-optation represents a form of corruption, and a giving in to bribery of one sort or another should not be the way to go. Anyway, I don’t see an antipsychiatry agency developing on Capital Hill anytime soon. Instead you’ve got politicians in the pockets of Big Pharm, the APA, and NAMI, and that’s a scary thought in itself. Common sense says we need a shared community with shared values, despite any physical space that may divide us, and that’s why we need an organization, too.

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        • Frank, I respectfully disagree. A goal to end psychiatry would be akin to civil rights workers in the sixties making it their primary focus to outlaw the KKK. Instead they focused on key issues such as voting rights and segregation.

          I think the primary focus should be informed consent and the abolition of harmful treatments and ending involuntary commitment. Abolishing a single profession because it is the agent of harm leaves a window for other professions to fill the vacuum created by the elimination of that profession.

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          • The problem with that specific example, outlawing the KKK, is that you can’t make a sustainable argument for civil and human rights by denying those rights to others in the same breath. I find the ideas of the KKK to be morally vacant and repugnant. However, it’s not a crime to be morally vacant. Justice Holmes said,
            While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.
            The problem of psychiatry, as it stands, is it isn’t merely an idea, it’s a practice, and a destructive one at that. I’m not sure the profession could survive the truth even if we didn’t mean to eliminate it.

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          • It’s okay by me to disagree. First things first. I definitely feel folks should work to outlaw coercive psychiatry entirely. When that is done, I don’t see any urgent need for anybody who is boycotting mental health services to see a shrink.

            As informed consent is nearly universally misinformed consent I’m not sure what one means when one suggests that it is needed.

            Yes, yes, yes, on ending involuntary commitment. I think I said something about ending coercive practices. As for harmful practices, ECT is being billed a safe and effective treatment, and that’s the utter nonsense that it sounds like, but who’s going to stop people from being conned, if not stupid. End coercive practices, and all there is no non-consensual psychiatry. I think, yes, that is something we need to work towards.

            When it comes to the abolition of psychiatric slavery (the profession being an extension of this slavery), I don’t think anybody should be grieving, or looking for more horrific punishments to take over. More is less in mental health treatment, the less harmful treatment, the more physical health. Psychiatry is all about harmful treatment and, what’s more, it isn’t a need whatsoever. Let’s get rid of it.

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          • “The problem of psychiatry, as it stands, is it isn’t merely an idea, it’s a practice, and a destructive one at that. I’m not sure the profession could survive the truth even if we didn’t mean to eliminate it.”

            Yes, I agree with both statements, but the second one especially rings true. As is it practiced, psychiatry does seem to work against truth, seriously resistant to it. I think ‘the truth’ would undermine its power tremendously, and the field couldn’t survive this. I guess we’ll see as the truth continues to come to light, but honestly, I don’t see much hope for it ever being transformed into anything useful at this point. It’s been way too steeped in corruption and is associated with torture.

            At this point, many of us who have had our experiences with psychiatry can see how this is the truth, I’m sorry to say.

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          • You don’t need to abolish psychiatry, you need however to abolish its ability to coerce, after which it will wither away. But we must keep anti-psychiatry as our self-identification — the degree to which the other side sees it as the bogeyman shows how powerful a concept it is.

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          • Madmom,

            As an FYI, I know someone who got a diagnosis of a psych disorder from a regular doctor that is beyond absurd. People on this board don’t seem to understand that if non psychiatrists are drinking the psychiatric med koolaid, that striving to banish psychiatry will be an exercise in futility.

            I agree with you that the primary focus should be informed consent and the abolition of harmful treatments and ending involuntary commitment.

            I also think people need to be educated on dealing with regular doctors to avoid getting a diagnosis of a psych disorder as getting one could be very detrimental to future heath care needs.

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          • AA, I think you have a point, that it’s not about psychiatry per se, but about a way of thinking and perceiving, which is spearheaded by psychiatrists, that has proven to be toxic for the community at large. Unfortunately, a lot of people still look to psychiatry for answers regarding human suffering, even though it doesn’t seem to know the first thing about alleviating suffering, and moreover, causes it more than not. It’s an embedded social system. How to break a system? Keep speaking one’s truth, move forward, and let the chips fall where they may.

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    • The message: ‘End Psychiatry’ is not simple enough because it begs a lengthy explanation. Try telling someone on the street that the data does not support conventional psychiatric treatment. That takes too much time and that is not the message we need to print on our flags when the media is giving us our five minutes (or five seconds)

      I agree with you and others on the need to confront NAMI, the MHA and other organizations capitalizing on people’s misery and confusion; however the above statement to me represents an absolutely incorrect approach, in several ways.

      If “End Psychiatry” is a problematic slogan and takes too much time to discuss, why would “Reform Psychiatry” or anything else be less complex (especially when the latter is unsupportable)? This is not exactly sound-bite material we’re dealing with, not that we can’t come up with a few once we reach the appropriate stage of unity.

      Your willingness to adjust our message and jump through hoops to get the corporate media to “cover” us, even if only for 5 seconds, is exactly the sort of attitude I’ve been decrying here for awhile now. The reason we are not covered by corporate media is not that there’s something “wrong” with our presentation. The fact is they have no intention of assisting us in bringing down an industry which is part and parcel of the system they represent. Not to mention the billions in pharmaceutical advertising dollars they rely on.

      If people engage in NAMI pickets, etc. with a primary goal other than reaching the actual human beings they come into contact with, such as getting media coverage, it will be a disservice to the people we supposedly want to reach.

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      • “The reason we are not covered by corporate media is not that there’s something “wrong” with our presentation. The fact is they have no intention of assisting us in bringing down an industry which is part and parcel of the system they represent.”

        Exactly. When you’re trying to satisfy them you’ll need to water down you message to the point when you’ll essentially turn into NAMI.

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  13. Bonnie,

    You said,

    “It is a question of what we mean by “abolish”. If we mean that they cannot call themselves medicine or function as a branch of medicine, this takes away the very plank on which they rest, and after that, they wither.”

    If that were to occur, how would this prevent the rest of medicine from drinking the psychiatric koolaid? I have given numerous examples of how I have encountered this in regular medicine and I just don’t see how banning psychiatry would prevent this.

    Sorry if I am belaboring the point but I honestly think this issue is getting overlooked.

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    • I think psychiatry is one thing but we also have to rein in the pharmaceutical industry. Lots of psych drugs are sold also for non-“mental illness” reasons. While some of them may be legitimate (although it’s likely a tiny percentage) most are complete bs or make people worse over the long term (like benzos for muscle relaxation).

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      • Bonnie,

        I know someone who completely shares my concern about psych meds being way overprescribed. But in this person’s case, amitriptyline is the only med that has solved his problem with pain. I just don’t think that taking away someone’s right to choose meds is the solution and will only alienate them from supporting our cause.

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        • I believe it is not possible to eliminate one without the other. We’re talking about a seriously narcissistic culture and mindset. That is by far the most challenging, toxic, and downright dangerous dynamic of all because it is highly unsafe and inherently betraying if one deviates from the narcissistic system and don’t play the role they intend for one to play.

          I have found that it boils down to all rationalization and justification to suit their purposes and way of thinking, and when that doesn’t work, they resort to force. There is no logic, flexibility, or humility to be found. This permeates the entire field and is terribly harmful to people until they wake up.

          It’s hard to recognize abusive dynamics when one has been accustomed to being abused via mental torture, which is what leads a lot of people to seek support in the first place, although they may not even recognize this as the origins of their anxiety. Psychiatry easily repeats original trauma, as a result of these narcissistic dynamics, and not just ‘forced psychiatry.’ I think the way to beat it is to understand how these narcissistic bully systems operate and then to distance ones self from them. They’re impossible to reconcile, by design.

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    • AA,

      the most recent NYT Sunday book review section had an example of what you are referring to. A review of the book “A Black Man in a White Coat” (about racism in medicine) tells of am African American man who came to the hospital with chest pains. The treating physician (presumably, a cardiologist) prescribed blood pressure medication that the patient declined to take, preferring to address his blood pressure with diet and lifestyle changes. Thereupon the doctor gratuitously labeled him with OCD and put that in his record. This awful anecdote suggests racist condescension on the part of the doctor, which it well may have been, and that would be reprehensible in the extreme.. But it is also a stark reminder that everyone is vulnerable to being psychiatrized, with or without symptoms or psychiatrists.

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      • Thanks GIR.

        As an FYI, what you are referring to was discussed on this site during an interview on NRP:

        Kind of scary that if the doctor is threatened by your knowledge of your medical condition, you will get a psych diagnosis. You can’t win for losing as doctors keep complaining that patients aren’t compliant and don’t care about their health. Yet, if someone takes control like the guy mentioned in the interview did, he gets tagged with a damming dx.

        Also, in the interview, the doctor said that being black can be bad for your health which I totally understand. But I also wanted to add that having a psych diagnosis in your medical records can be also bad for your health and perhaps more damaging than being black.

        Most doctors who see that will view any complaint you make through that lens. You will also be seen as a non credible member of your healthcare team because after all, people with a MI diagnosis can’t be trusted, right?

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  14. Wonderful article. Well, I certainly am going to hope, and pray that with the resignation of Dr. Thomas Insel from the NIMH this will shake things up some. Actually, I’m hoping for an earthquake. Between Dr. David Healy posting results of Study 329 and this, I hope (there I go again) that it opens up the dialog between psychiatry, many professionals, and patients, such as myself. Who needs antidepressants with news such as this. And in the same day!

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  15. Overall, I’m not quite was optimistic that we are witnessing a turning tide even if the waters are stirred. Half of the internal bickering withing psychiatric institutions, even the ones where there is internal criticism of diagnostic validity or various treatment, have to do with competing financial stakeholders and squabbles over who holds the power. I was well-reminded by a fellow MIAer back when Insel of the NIMH made his famous denunciation of the DSM, that his comments amounted to nothing more than a turf war. The NIMH was doubling down on neuroscience research and the biomedical model, just just wanted to be at the center of the money, rather than the APA.

    There’s lots of other infighting of this nature that has as much to do with battles for power and influence as it does any kind of crisis of conscience within the institutions. I am of course still pleased that criticisms of psychiatry and mental health system at large have become increasingly mainstream. That helps me as an advocate because I can deny/refute the attacks that anything I am advocating is “fringe.” It’s not fringe anymore. However, the reasons behind most of the internal criticisms, and the recommended changes or solutions proposed by those making the critiques within the institutions are as bad as ever.

    And the public at large remains basically as unaware as ever. And the public at large, I believe actually wants there to be a mechanism for “dealing with” the annoying, the inconvenient, and the “maladapted” of society and are perfectly comfortable with the convenient lie that Psychiatry is necessary and serves and important, legitimate, functional purpose.

    So turning tied? I can’t quite join you in that optimism. Ripples in the water? Sure, though in fairness those have been found in many different periods of psychiatry’s history without translating fundamentally weakening the institution itself.

    The point of sharing my view is not to be gloomy for gloom’s sake. It’s because if anyone is just sitting around waiting for psychiatry to dismantle itself, you are going to be waiting for a long, long time. We have a nearly insurmountable task against an unspeakably powerful (politically, legally, financially) adversary and none of its internal squabbles will be enough to bring it down.

    This tide won’t turn passively. We force it to turn with our blood sweat and tears.

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  16. See my tactical idea regarding psychological and post mortem autopsies-for-murderers somewhere in this commentary, Bonnie. The tactic may not be perfect, and certainly isn’t a final solution to the problem, but I ‘d hoped it would provoke some critical thinking beyond analysis of the problem and toward some discussion about strategies and tactics which could be steps toward a solution….and I mean going past ideas that merely mimic what other groups have done in other times, with regard to other problems in different contexts. The task requires a focus and analysis of our strengths and weaknesses, their strengths and weaknesses, how to use our strengths and how to overcome theirs in a very practical and step by step manner.

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  17. I hope I’m not too late to get your attention with a question regarding some of the contents of your writings. I am definitely now in the antipsychiatry camp, and I have read some of what you wrote about Canada’s violation of UN agreements about the forced treatment and incarceration of the mentally troubled. You seemed to suggest that the UN was very clear that such detainment of the “disabled” (I don’t consider myself disabled, but I guess we just have to deal with whatever language the agreements adopt) is illegal or unacceptable for the signatories of the agreement (I’m not sure what the exact language is) to engage in. What I did not find in your writing is what the alternatives are — i.e., rather than locking people up when they are, say, perceived to be unstable, what is done in other countries that are not in violation of the agreement? And how well does that work out for them? Even if you could simply point me in the direction of articles or books that might address that question, I would greatly appreciate it. I’m against the coercion, but I’m just wondering what is done in its stead by countries that do comply with UN standards of human rights.

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